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I too am greatly enjoying your journal, and learning from it, so thanks for sharing your experiences. With Valhalla, were there any other symptoms of her vitamin E deficiency at first, before she started to lose muscle? Or just the problems in holding up her hind feet? And is vitamin E deficiency specific to the hind quarters, or at least more commonly manifested here than in the shoulders, for example? My horse is antsy about lifting her hind feet, and while I'm fairly sure it's a training rather than a health issue, it never hurts to know more.
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That mare never had any problems doing anything but picking up the back legs. She was so good and dependable with beginners. Smart too. When the guy bought her at the auction, he was told she was a Suffolk Punch, but I doubt that very seriously, as that breed is quite rare in Maryland, I think. She was the spitting image--height and color and build--of a horse in my breed book called a Jutland, but those are even more rare in Maryland, probably none. So, who knows what she was, but she was a good one. I had a world class farrier who could pick up her hind feet really slow and low to the ground and trim her feet without her kicking. That's another reason why I thought it was stifle pain, because if we picked up her feet low and slow, she was OK.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
With Valhalla, were there any other symptoms of her vitamin E deficiency at first, before she started to lose muscle? Or just the problems in holding up her hind feet? And is vitamin E deficiency specific to the hind quarters, or at least more commonly manifested here than in the shoulders, for example?
In the first several years I had Valhalla, I would notice that her cooperation with her hind legs would be better sometimes. Looking back, I think she would be more "cooperative" at the end of summer, which is probably because I was not consistently giving her vitamins throughout the year, so that was probably the only time she had good muscle strength built up, after grazing on green grass for a couple of months in the pasture. If I remember right, I attributed her good attitudes at the end of summer to consistent work and being at a good weight, since it was difficult to keep weight on her the rest of the year.

That sign was very subtle, and it is difficult when other horses getting the same treatment don't have issues, so you feel there is nothing wrong with your horse management. They don't understand why some horses show serious signs of Vitamin E deficiency and many others are not affected outwardly by it. I have wondered if some horses' muscles can adjust how quickly it is removed from storage (it is stored in the muscles) and other horses just release it regardless until they are depleted. So one horse's blood levels might be low, but they are still getting some daily amount from their muscle storage, while another horse has used their stores up altogether.

Then last summer, there were lots of other signs because where I boarded the pastures were overgrazed so there was no lush green grass over the spring and summer, and also I was not feeding any vitamins at all. That's when we got into trouble. When you don't see what vitamins are doing, you can think they are a waste of money...that's what happened to me.

By mid-summer, Valhalla had started bucking when I asked her to canter. Through her retraining as a green horse after I rescued her, she never bucked. This was a new behavior for her. Red flag #1. I could not figure it out, and tried all kinds of things like different tack, rest, massage, etc. In the fall, I moved her and she developed ulcers. After getting over the ulcers, when I started her back into work she was bucking again, but worse. And then she stopped wanting to canter. This is a horse that always preferred the canter, but she began wanting to trot only. And her trot felt choppier than before. These things I thought were due to being out of shape after taking time off for the ulcers.

Next, she started doing these little half rears and getting very upset and distressed about going out. Obviously I was getting a clue that something was very wrong, and by this time I noticed she was never dirty. That was a huge red flag because she loves to roll and I always called her "Pigpen." So she wasn't laying down. Then she began standing funny, like she was propping herself up on her front legs. She'd only graze uphill, never downhill and spread her legs wide. That was when I had totally stopped riding Halla and then she was falling on the lunge. All of that progressed quickly over a couple of months.

As I understand it, the hindquarter muscles are the largest in the body so that's why you see it affecting them first. When I'd look at Halla from behind, her hindquarters scooped in on the sides and were concave. Normally they are pretty flat from top to bottom. By the time she was not laying down at all, Halla's shoulders were also looking very bony and shrunken, and her abdomen had developed ridged muscling similar to a horse with heaves.

The miracle was how quickly she recovered once I began giving her the Vitamin E. Since she was so bad off, it was obvious that she was stronger only a week after I began feeding it.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
Feeding Valhalla

For those who want to rescue a horse:
Halla was “free,” since we talked her owner into signing her over to me. In the first month after Halla came to me, here were my expenses:
-Teeth floating: $150
-Shots: $65
-Hoof trim: (done by myself, would have been $30)
-Blanket: $80 (necessary since she was underweight and frequently shivered)
-Board: $250
-4 bales alfalfa hay: $60
-Wormer: $15
-Medicated shampoo for rain rot: $15
-Medicine for scratches: $15
-Complete feed: $50
-Vitamins: $30
-Halter and lead: $30

So around $800. My guess is now that she probably had ulcers and if I rescued another horse that was starved I’d give Omeprazole for a couple of weeks. In a way, if you think of that as being the purchase price of a horse, it is not very expensive. However, my vet says in his experience horses that have been malnourished may need extra calories to keep weight on for two or three years.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.
People talk about horses that are “hard keepers.” Nowadays I differentiate between “expensive to feed,” versus “hard keeper.” There are many horses that need a lot of calories, but they eat just fine. In my mind, those horses are not “hard keepers,” but merely “expensive to feed.” The owner simply has to buy the food and get it to the horse. The horse will eat it. The owner may not wish to feed 30 lbs of hay and 7 lbs of hard feed, but that is what the horse requires.

Valhalla is what I call a “hard keeper.” Using this table, it would estimate that she would need about 20,000 calories per day if I consider her a hard keeper in moderate work (she weighs about 875 lbs). When I put her diet into FeedXL, it estimates she is getting about 20,000 calories per day. With this intake, she stays on the thin side of a normal weight.

Weight of Horse
Kg (pounds/2.2)
X Metabolism Factor
Mcal (Calories) per day
for maintenance
450 (1,000/2.2)
Normal : 0.0333
15 Mcal (15,000)
450 (1,000/2.2)
Easy Keeper: 0.0303
13 Mcal (13,000)
450 (1,000/2.2)
Hard Keeper: 0.0363
16 Mcal (16,000)

Activity/Energy Needs
DE Formula
Using 450 kg (1,000 lb) horse
DE (Mcal/day) needed
Maintenance (No Work)
450 x 0.0333
15-18 based on metabolism (15,000 calories/day)
Moderate
450 x 0.0333 x 1.40
23 (23,000 calories/day)
Heavy
450 x 0.0333 x 1.7
25 (25,000 calories/day)
Very Heavy
450 x 0.0363 x 1.90
31 (31,000 caloriesday)

What makes me consider Valhalla a “hard keeper” though, is the fact that getting this amount of calories into her is a daily chore.

After a couple of months, Halla decided she did not like alfalfa in any form. Periodically I try again to see if she has changed her mind, but she will not put alfalfa into her mouth. It can be in a pellet, cube, hay, or part of a complete feed and she will not eat it.

She is not quite as picky about beet pulp, because she will eat it if it is part of a complete feed. But wet beet pulp? Are you kidding me? Why would any horse eat something wet and mushy? She feels similarly about oils. You can see the disgust on her face as she tries to get that oily residue off her whiskers by wiping her face on her legs. She can’t understand why someone would contaminate perfectly good food with oil and make it inedible.
She ate rice bran for awhile, then decided it was not horse food either.

I’ve tried every type of hay available and she eats them all the same. As long as it is a good hay, she will eat it. However, she eats hay by nosing around for awhile and then taking a few strands, chewing them up completely and then doing it again. Due to this process, it can take her many hours to eat just a few pounds of hay. I’ve never been able to get her to consume more than 10 lbs of hay, even if I switch it out for fresh, and even if I give her 18 to 20 hours to try to eat as much as she can. She grazes the pasture the same way – a few bites, then stops to look around.

Sometimes I wondered if she had low grade ulcers. However, when she actually had ulcers I saw the difference. She would stand in front of her hay and “pretend” to eat it, grinding her teeth but not taking food into her mouth. After Omeprazole, her eating went back to normal. I also gave her Equishure for several months after her ulcer treatment to prevent any hind gut acidosis and she did not eat any better than usual.

Since I can’t get calories into this horse through an adequate amount of hay, I’ve worked her through about every type of horse feed known to man. It seems after a time that she gets bored of a certain taste and doesn't eat as much. Several months ago I switched her to a few pounds of oats along with another complete feed (Triple Crown), and she has been eating the oats well, along with black oil sunflower seeds to add calories and fat.

So my rescue horse has averaged around $200 a month for her extra hard feed, not including hay. That’s more than double what it costs to feed my other horse. The cost of feeding one horse versus another should be something to consider when thinking about the affordability of owning a horse or a second horse. If I was thinking of buying a large Thoroughbred, I’d think it might cost around what it costs me to feed Valhalla, which shows that many smaller horses, especially rescues could also cost a lot to feed.
 

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Many people tell me they prefer cold and dry winter weather over the rain we often have. Not me. It was bitterly cold today, and although I know a temperature in the 30s doesn't seem bad to a lot of people, it is a damp cold here and the wind blows constantly.

It felt like a good day to roll...

The horses seem to enjoy the sun, even if it feels cold to us. They are out in a few of these large pastures during the day, 12 horses in all, 2 or 3 in each large pasture.

This afternoon when I came to ride Valhalla, a herd of about 30 elk was ranging just outside the pasture fences, by the low hills. Another boarder had turned two horses out together to see if the one horse (usually alone) would gallop with the other. He was yelling, trying to get the horses moving.
Meanwhile, I was trying to saddle Halla just outside the pasture.

I believe that no matter what happens when I am handling or riding a horse, it is not the fault of anyone other than myself if the horse has issues. Would I prefer if others weren't cracking whips, driving remote control cars through the barn aisle, or revving motorcycles just outside while I'm working with a horse? Sometimes. But I can either decide that this is an appropriate time and place to work with the horse, or not. I don't let myself get upset and especially I don't blame others if they don't notice that their actions are causing me to have difficulties.

Today I decided that I'd rather bring Halla down the hill to the barn instead of trying to saddle her at the tie rack where she couldn't see her usual turnout friends, other horses were galloping around, and elk were shifting around the fields. She was still a little fidgety down below, but I made it work and safely tacked her up.

Halla is like a dog I once had. He'd go out of his mind while waiting for you to get ready to take him on his run. He'd leap in the air, twitch, bump into things, and just be a lunatic. When you clicked his leash on and opened the door, he went into working mode and was super serious and steady. Halla is the same. People have said, "You aren't going to get on that horse, are you?" Because she'll be fidgety and excited many times when you're getting her ready. But put her by the mounting block and she gets really serious. Swing your leg over the saddle and she's working. She'll walk out steady, loose rein, working mode.

It was so cold, Halla's coat fluffed out until she looked like a bigger horse. We went down to the beach, past some kids playing jump rope (seriously? Kids have no nerves or something - I swear they can't feel cold), past some people with dogs, and a few cars. We trotted, we cantered, and went about two miles. It was close to dark and I didn't want Halla to get too sweaty in the cold.

There's a steep sand dune we come up to get off the beach. The footing is shifty, tricky, and it is the downfall of many horses. Meaning, they can stay calm and docile the whole ride but coming up that hill, the devil gets into them. I've seen some buck, leap, and do other silliness coming up the hill. Amore will walk or jog it almost all the time, but at the very top she always snorts and prances for about fifty feet afterward. Halla usually handles it better than most horses, but today between the cold, sharp weather and the settling dusk, it got her going a little. I felt her energy building as we started up, and I said, "Be serious." She did try, but at the end went hop, hop, and then did some jigging after we crested the hill. Then she looked over the dune grass, and I could tell she was really hoping something unexpected would pop up so she could do a little spook or bolt. But...there was nothing, just stillness and silence. She sighed, and continued.

I got off and walked the last eighth of a mile home and she danced next to me. I'm not sure why, but she enjoys prancing when I get off. She doesn't pull, or try to get home fast, she just does a fancy, high-stepping jog while arching her neck and swinging her head around like she's real proud of herself or something.
Maybe some people would want her to walk, but to me it looks like joy, and I see nothing wrong with a horse being happy.
Probably joy that her food and friends were waiting for her back at the barn.
 

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She doesn't pull, or try to get home fast, she just does a fancy, high-stepping jog while arching her neck and swinging her head around like she's real proud of herself or something.
Maybe some people would want her to walk, but to me it looks like joy, and I see nothing wrong with a horse being happy.
What a lovely evocative post about your ride! I can just smell the sea air and feel the sand yielding under her hooves as she breasted the dune.

Thanks for that sentence about a happy horse.
It made my New Year's morning.
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I meant to trim both my horses' hooves today, but instead I trimmed a horse for a friend and then went out for two rides, one on each of my horses. Each ride was about 3.5 miles long. I decided that in winter, it's best to ride when you can. Hoof trimming can be done anytime.

For the first ride, I went out on Amore, along with a friend. She rode Satin, another little Arab boarded at my barn. We call them the Arab twins. Many Arabs look similar, but these two are closer than most. They have the same huge, wide-set eyes, tiny muzzle, star on the forehead, and are almost the same color of bay.

For the second ride, I didn't have a partner so took Valhalla out alone. This was about my fifteenth ride or so in my treeless Freeform saddle. What I noticed again is that most of my worries about a treeless saddle have been alleviated. The saddle is secure, doesn't slide around, and Halla moves out freely. The treeless style compensates for her asymmetrical shoulders, and she is moving straighter than ever before. So for my horse, I love it.

However, for myself, there are some difficulties. Halla has a wide, round back with strong supporting muscles on either side of the spine. Her withers are not very high, but are long and flat, and she has huge shoulders. With a Haf saddle pad with inserts, her spine has a nice channel of air and the saddle stays off it. But in the very front of the saddle, the pommel touched her withers, so I added a second set of inserts.

Now the saddle is quite wide, with that thick pad underneath. I'm finding that the width overcomes my physiological ability to ride fast and aerobically. Instead, I'm having to use muscular strength at a fast trot and canter to stay off Halla's back (sitting her gaits is not comfortable or easy). As with any anaerobic exercise, even a fit person tires after a time. So today after cantering about 1/4 mile, I had to slow her down due to my legs burning.
That's not going to work because one of our riding partners has a fit, 11 year old Thoroughbred and she and Halla like to canter for long distances.

I've been thinking about my options. My initial thought was to keep it up, and gradually condition myself to this new width. However, I believe it will always require muscle power/anaerobic activity to two-point that widely, and there are limits to how long you can sustain a "power" activity, no matter how you train.

Someone suggested that I take out the second set of inserts so they are not doubled, and try to shim only the front of the saddle at the withers for clearance. Since the single set of inserts cleared the rest of Halla's spine, I'm going to try that and see how it goes.
I've heard it can take some adjusting and shimming to get treeless saddles to work, so I hope I can get things more comfortable because I want to use the saddle that works best for my horse.
 

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Discussion Starter #28
Tomorrow is supposed to be nice so I decided to get my hoof trimming done tonight. In the barn, the lighting is a bit gloomy, so I wore a head lamp to get things done. As I was getting close to finishing, a friend drove up and asked if I'd trim her Mustang sometime. So I went ahead and trimmed him too, since I had my tools out.

If you know anyone who trims three or four Mustangs in a day, please give them my regards. This gelding I was trimming made all my super sharp tools seem dull and difficult to use. Nice hooves are wonderful...but so hard to trim! By the twelfth hoof I was hitting the wall. My left leg was failing me and starting to shake instead of standing firm. But I pushed through and finished. Arabs have good hooves and Mustangs have great hooves. Nothing mushy or soft about them. The nippers make a loud "snap!" when you cut through the wall.

Some posts on here and a recent conversation with a friend had me musing today. On my mind were some horses I've known that were sensitive and yet had been treated as if they were stubborn. This produced some nervous horses that were difficult to calm down.
It's interesting that we call horses "reactive," when many horse handlers I've seen would more appropriately be labeled reactive. If a horse makes a wrong decision, these handlers react as suddenly and strongly as a horse pulling back or exploding into bucking.

One horse I rode became very nervous whenever you shifted your weight or applied a leg cue. He'd been trained so that if you cued it was expected that he would immediately and quickly leap into action. If you shifted your weight, he'd back up very fast three steps, or if you applied one leg lightly he'd spin to one side. I'm sure having the horse this responsive made his trainer look good but the horse was a nervous wreck. He was always waiting for your sudden cue, and after he gave his response he'd always suck in his breath and tense up, as if waiting to see if his response had been wrong and how you were going to react if it was. This horse became much happier when he was taught to relax and trust that the rider would give him a clear cue and time to respond, and an opportunity to fail and try again once in awhile.

Sometimes people treat their horses worse than machines. If a car doesn't start on the first try, you don't leap out of the front seat and smash the hood with a hammer. You try again. We don't even speak a horse's language, yet we expect them to understand us perfectly every time we give them a cue. Sometimes when I'm working with my horse, I imagine I'm in a foreign country trying to ask someone to move out of my way. I could gesture, or touch them lightly, but I doubt if they didn't move immediately that my next response would be to yell and hit them with something. Many horses have learned these cues, but I've seen so many people handling a horse for the first time, or a horse they don't know, and this is their reaction when the horse does not respond to them.

Something I've been trying to learn is that no matter how strong my intent is, that does not translate into how well my horse understands what I want. I may want to get a horse to move sideways over toward a gate to open it, and no matter how much I want that, the horse may have no clue that is what I'd like him to do. So if I give a cue with that intention, there is no reason for me to suddenly freak out and punish the horse if he doesn't understand.
 

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I like this picture. Halla is on the right, and she's so small compared to her Thoroughbred friend Nala, but she is the uncontested boss of the herd.

As the boss, Halla takes her job seriously and often is the one standing watch while Amore and Nala loaf around. Amore is riding on Halla's laurels and is #2, able to boss big Nala around too. As Halla's spoiled little minion, she gets first pick of where to hang out.

Halla expects the best treatment, and came over to see why my friend was brushing her own horse and not her.

My friend did as Halla commanded. I think boss horses are good at manipulating people too.


Right there, that's the spot.
 

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It was our friend Satin's 23rd birthday today.

She's about two years younger than Amore, who is almost 25.
It's tough to know around here...will it be rain?

Or will it be shine?

Both, as usual.

The seafoam became a living entity, scampering across the sand, flying in the air and dancing around. Amore kept a close eye on it, leaping to the side a couple of times just before it caught her. Obviously, I knew what she suspected: these were children of the rabbit on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Potentially lethal to the bravest of knights or their horses.

My friend said Satin was one of the most fun horses she's ridden. I'm trying to convert her over to the dark Arab side. She owns a QH. We cantered slowly at first and then the two mares went Wheeeeeee!! down the beach.



I find my girl rather spry for 24. Who am I kidding? She's spry for any age.
 

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I don't mean for this post to sound judgmental in any way, or like I'm just so proud of my horse handling skills. I give full credit to the difficult horses that have taught me some things, and I know I'm likely to be humbled by one at any moment. My experiences today just highlighted some things to me.

Two gals I ride with regularly were meeting me at the barn. One of them was planning to borrow a ride from a fellow boarder. What we know about this horse is that his owner is new to horses and has had difficulty riding him. After the owner broke some ribs falling off for the third or fourth time, I offered to ride the horse and evaluate him. My evaluation was that the horse was well trained, mellow and seemed fine for a beginner horse. The owner proceeded to ride and fall off again. He then had a trainer come and evaluate his horse and give him some pointers. We all are hopeful he will learn more horsemanship and how to work better with his horse. They have done extensive groundwork and can do some fancy moves in the round pen.

When I arrived at the barn, I saw the girl who planned to ride this Mustang standing just outside the pasture, holding him on a lead rope. She said, "I'm not sure if it's going to work out to ride today. He's spooked at that chair several times and ran right into me, I mean right into me! I'm not sure I can get him to go down the hill past that chair." Someone had set a plastic chair down next to the pasture fence.

She told me she wasn't used to horses that spooked into the handler instead of away. Hmm, made me wonder because the horse has had lots of ground work and is normally easy to handle. But I know any horse can have a bad day.
For some reason my usual response is to give a silly anecdote. I'm not sure why, I think seeing someone upset makes me feel that if I tell about something that's similar to what they're experiencing, only worse, that they might feel it's not so bad. So I said, "Did you ever try leading Duncan, the giant 17 hand draft horse at our last barn past a kitten? He'd try to jump on your lap!" Well, she did smile and I thought relaxed a bit. I said, "Maybe if I go get Halla, he'll follow her down the hill."

It felt wrong just to leave my friend standing there, however, so a moment later I said, "Here, hang on a second," and took the Mustang's lead rope. "Come on buddy, let's check out this chair." He followed me for three steps, then froze. I let out a whole bunch of lead rope (he had a really long one) and said, "OK, let's go another way." I circled him back away where he couldn't see the chair, and then we came alongside the shed until we were very close to the chair but couldn't see it yet. Then I acted like I wasn't leading him and relaxed, just wandering out next to the chair while singing a little song about "there's nothing wrong, it's a beautiful day..." etc. My usual Arab treatment. He wandered after me and past the chair, and then suddenly we were on the other side of it and he was only two feet away. At that point, he saw it was a chair, for goodness' sake, and I swear he was embarrassed. He immediately put his head down and started eating grass while looking at me sideways.

I got Halla, we went down the hill and saddled the horses. Here's our buddy, the Mustang. His name is Diesel.

The horse's owner was very concerned about us taking him out. I think the concerns were that he would get his rider off and head for the barn, reinforcing the behaviors that he'd gotten away with before. In addition, I'm sure there was concern about the rider, our friend getting hurt.
Although I'd ridden this horse and knew the rider so I doubted those concerns were necessary, I had concerns of my own. The other riders and I discussed our rules, which were that Diesel would have a calm ride, that we wouldn't let him be afraid or get him amped up, and that we wouldn't take him out for more than his fitness level warranted.

We had a lovely ride. He did try to turn back to the barn initially, but he was well trained and responded to the rider's cues.

Halla was a bit excited and I couldn't let her do more than a very slow canter since we were doing a babysitter ride. But I know it's good for her to have slower rides too, and she was controllable, although a bit put out from time to time. We were very responsible, and I hope this experience will be good for the horse.

It is interesting to me that while people will say they understand others are better, more experienced riders than they are, they still often feel their own horse is a real challenge when in reality they may have a quite mellow, compliant horse. I've taken out enough horses for other people to help the horse gain experience, when honestly it was only the rider that needed help. It's something I wish people would understand, that through their lenses a horse might be difficult, bad, obnoxious, etc but the horse is only doing what any horse would. If any horse can step to the side, lose the rider and then trot home and eat, they will probably find that quite appealing.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
Once upon a time, I really believed that if a horse bit me and if I punished them strongly enough, they'd never try anything like that ever again. But there are horses and there are horses...
It probably would sound strange to someone that didn't handle a very strong mare or stallion, but I believe that Halla would bite or kick me if I ever did something really wrong. She doesn't believe that someone can "earn her respect" and keep it for good. No horse will stay her leader unchallenged or undeserved, and no human can either.

Tonight I picked a scab off Halla's leg, which pulled her skin painfully and she set her teeth on my leg. She has done this to me on occasion; set her teeth on me. I always get as big as I can, and aggressively step toward her, give a loud verbal reprimand, stomp, slap some part of her body. She understands and tips her head at me, which means OK, you are still the big horse. But I also understand she is telling me she won't tolerate me causing pain unfairly, and it is a warning. She is saying that I hurt her, there was no call for that, and that she could bite me hard if she wanted to.

Interestingly, in the times when she was really injured, such as when she fell and denuded her knees or when she got cut badly on a fence, she allowed me to cause pain. I can tend her injuries, and she understands that. When she is not injured and gets really amped up and starts losing control of her body (head moving everywhere, butt swinging around) and I grab some skin on her neck in my hand and squeeze, she understands I am telling her to chill. A trainer told me that stallions grab mares on the neck, so sometimes with strong mares that is the only way to get them to listen. When she is really upset and reacting to something, this does get her to pay attention a lot of times, so it is a good tip.

I've had people tell me that Valhalla behaves like a stallion. Perhaps she is one of those mares with a reproductive issue that creates testosterone. I've certainly never seen her behave as though she is in heat. She is consistently a strong horse, and one that gives you respect but you can't take it from her. I don't know about this comparison, because the only stallions I've handled have been docile. These stallions were the kind that amateur owners tend to keep as studs, because there was no real reason to geld them since they were so amenable and could live in close proximity with other horses. The only stallions I've seen that weren't docile lived in their stalls and screamed and climbed the walls, so I never saw them being handled. I briefly boarded at a barn with two studs like this, and they were channeled into an arena while their stall was cleaned, and then channeled back into their stall after. Any vet or farrier care was done under sedation.

I don't believe my technique is at fault with Valhalla, because she's never harmed me and I've owned her about six years now. Also, I have given many horses the same amount of grief after trying to bite me and had them never try again. And I've known two other mares that were much, much more aggressive than Halla and would try to bite you nearly every day. One I called "Cherry Bomb" and my job was to lead her out to pasture with my sweet Amore, who lived in dread fear of her. One day I turned to look at Cherry just as she was threatening Amore and ended up getting bitten in the face. Just a jagged cut above the nose as the big old tooth swiped by. That mare was not mine, nor was I involved with training her, and I could never figure out how to reprimand her and get it to stick. She wanted to fight, welcomed it. In general she did understand she wasn't to harm me, but I had to handle her with very strong body language and safety measures.

The other mare that was so aggressive was one that was a megalomaniac. She literally thought she owned the whole world. When she walked, she swaggered, and when she entered a field the other horses would bow (figuratively speaking). It took over a year of working with her to get her to respect humans at all, and even then she thought that perhaps we were close to the same level as her but definitely not above her by very much. Oddly enough, there was a disconnect in the brain with both of these aggressive mares and they disassociated riding with being handled on the ground. On the ground they were always aggressive, but both mares were docile under saddle, respectful. Cherry was older and a bomb-proof beginner horse when ridden. The younger mare was green but went very gently in a snaffle and was soft and responsive. Halla is not docile under saddle. She requires the same amount of earning her respect when being ridden.

It can be difficult, because I do believe in the idea of "3 seconds to make them believe they're going to die," when horses act up. However, this gets trickier when horses respond to negative attention with interest, or if negative attention serves to get a horse's adrenaline going and amp them up.

I've recently met another type of horse, one I call a "self-punisher." This gelding is mellow and docile, but deep inside he has this naughty side and once in awhile it comes out. I'm not sure if he comes by this self-punishing naturally, or if it is the consequence of people reacting too strongly to behaviors in a sensitive horse. Anyway, the other day I was going to lead this gelding in to dinner, but I was going to get another horse first so decided to tie him for a couple minutes. He knew this was going to delay his dinner, so as I led him up to the tie rack he stopped and then raised his front hoof and touched my leg with it. Immediately after doing this, he rushed backward, eyes bugging out, "I can't believe I just did that, I'm so bad!" There really was nothing more to do since he'd already punished himself so completely. I said sternly, "You know it was bad, I know it was bad, so don't do it again." Then he behaved perfectly.

Another day I was giving him an apple and he grabbed the whole thing out of my hand quickly instead of taking a bite. Immediately again his eyes bugged out and he cringed before running into the corner of his stall. He stood there for more than a minute, just cowering. Again, I saw no reason to punish a horse that punished himself. The next time I gave him a treat he remembered to do it nicely.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
Well, I'm getting ready to try another saddle.

Sometimes I wonder if I have a problem. In general, I'm an easygoing person and tend to be content with what I buy. My car starts, I'm happy. If I buy some clothes and they're not terribly comfortable or a great fit, it rarely crosses my mind. My coat was supposed to be waterproof, oh well. I don't fuss about my bridles or halters or any other horse gear I have. Food? Whatever, stick it in front of me and I'll eat it.
But for some reason I've become very, very picky about saddles. And reins. Just can't get satisfied with my reins.

It doesn't help that both of my horses are nightmares to fit saddles to. That may have started my problem. When I first bought Amore, I tried several western saddles from a used tack store and found an all leather Circle Y that fit well, as far as I understood saddle fit at the time. As with all the saddles I've ever bought, initially I just loved it. It was a good quality saddle and I took good care of it.

Then one day I decided I wanted to try riding english. Since I had no clue about how difficult it might be to fit an english saddle to my horse, I bought one online. It didn't even remotely fit my mare...thinking she was a small Arab, I bought a saddle with a narrow tree and couldn't even get it to sit on her back. That was when I learned about the racket of buying and selling saddles online. By "racket," I mean I discovered that for the mere cost of shipping and inconvenience of advertising, saddles were a commodity that could easily be resold for the same price they were purchased for. So my problem began.

Once I had a hunt saddle, it turned out I needed a dressage saddle for my riding lessons. Three saddles for one horse? My husband had questions about that but I assured him that all the saddles were absolutely necessary. He admitted he did not understand how this whole horse thing worked.
One saddle would slip forward. One would feel as though it put my leg too far forward. Another might bridge a bit on my horse's back. The more I knew about saddles, the more critical I became. I'd fall in love with a saddle, ride in it for awhile, and then notice some tiny little fault and it would grow in my mind until I could not believe I was using the saddle at all.

Saddles came and saddles went. At the time when I met my friends that were real hard-core distance riders, I thought riding in my western saddle on the trails was the only way to feel secure. I'd already learned the lesson that the saddle could beat you up as you came off the bucking horse. Now I learned that as my seat became more secure, the things that would get me off any saddle would have probably flung me to the ground even if I were wearing a seat belt. So there became not much difference between english and western.

I also learned the lesson about rough trails and a saddle with a horn. My sternum kept getting bruised as I threw myself flat to avoid low hanging branches so I learned to flatten to one side. Sudden leaps over ditches and downed old growth trees found the horn getting hooked in the front of my shirt or bra and causing all sorts of problems. My previously well-used western saddle was relegated to the tack room at home and rarely saw the light of day again. The english saddles that had worked so well for showing and lessons didn't fit either me or the horse well enough for hard-core riding, so more saddles came and went on trial.

Each time I buy a saddle I think, "This is it." I truly believe that the saddle and I will grow old together, and perhaps I will pass it on to my non-existent children or their progeny someday. As I've learned more and bought more quality saddles, the process of disillusionment takes longer. But the beautiful Lovatt and Ricketts saddle that has been sitting in my tack room for the past few months is about to go on sale, and I don't currently own a western saddle at all after keeping one around just in case for a few years.

The most recent thing that has me wanting a new and different saddle is that I've learned how far treeless saddles have come in the past few years. More and more, spinal clearance is being built into the saddle, and while I bought a treeless Freeform several months ago, I bought an older version and have been trying to get that clearance with the saddle pad alone, which is much harder. I was initially quite happy with the Freeform (story of my life), and it does stay off Halla's spine with the special saddle pad. BUT, unfortunately that much padding under this type of treeless has me sitting so wide it is uncomfortable for me. Perhaps if I hadn't been a runner for 25 years my legs would adapt, but I've given it several months and my leg muscles are just too tight and strong I believe. It's not like I'm going to quit running.

So I have a Ghost treeless coming for a trial period. Supposedly these are one of the best for having a narrow twist and also good spinal clearance for the horse. I want Halla to be able to move her asymmetrical shoulders without getting pinched by the saddle tree, which has always been an issue with a treed saddle. The larger muscle on her left shoulder attaches so far back that any saddle with a tree slides to the right constantly, even with panel and pad adjustments. Since this problem has gone away with the treeless Freeform, I have hopes of more and better riding to come. The tendonitis I have had in my left leg for years from keeping pressure on the left stirrup at faster gaits to keep the saddle in line is clearing up.

I couldn't have a better dog, or cat, or husband or horses. I've always kept things and never let them go until they wore out or died.
Except for saddles...can't ever be satisfied with a saddle for very long. I keep hoping that someday I'll find the "right one," but I've never yet had a long term relationship with a saddle. Keep on dreaming, right?
 

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I, also, have gone through perhaps 20 saddles trying to find ones that fit my three ridged back Pasos. I am terrible because I now own 11 saddles for 4 horses. My Isabeau has her own ideas about what saddle she will allow on her back. The ones that seem to fit her rather well, cause her to kick out violently and spin on the lead rope. The saddle that seems to not fit her well at all, she accepts. Luckily the saddle she likes is quite comfortable to me, so I ride her in it. If I push through the kicking and spinning and ride her in the saddle that appears to fit her, she bucks, stops, backs up, and acts really unhappy the whole ride.

My heart horse Chorro is super super hard to fit. It doesn't help that I long to ride English. I grew up riding English and jumping. Chorro is a terrific jumper. I once found a beautiful Collegiate saddle in great shape for $100. It seemed to fit Chorro perfectly and I loved it. Every ride, after about a half hour, my ankles and knees would hurt terribly. I tried EVERYTHING to make that saddle comfortable for me--longer stirrups, shorter stirrups, a seat pad, a different seat pad, a different saddle pad. I finally sold it because I wasn't riding in it.

With 11 saddles, I think now I have saddles for every horse that actually fit and are comfortable for me and my daughter. (Still wish I had an English saddle, but oh well). I wish you the best of luck finding something that fits both you and your horses.
 

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Discussion Starter #35
My demo Ghost saddle arrived today.
This is the model, it's called a "Roma." The saddle itself is the smooth leather looking portion in the picture...the other part pictured is the saddle pad that is made by the same company.


Since I didn't have time to ride or bring it to the barn to try on the horses, I just looked it over a bit. I'm starting to get used to the non-traditional look of treeless saddles. At one point it really bothered me how strange some of the models look, but I've finally decided that's not as important as having my horse be comfortable.

My first impressions were good. It is very small, and even lighter than my Freeform treeless. Since I've read a lot of reviews from other people, I was prepared for some things. The leather is nice, but as others have said it's not the same quality as some of the high end english saddles such as my Arabian saddle company saddles. The saddle doesn't cost half the price of those saddles new, either, so that is understandable.

Some things that I really like are that the pommel is high and the panels underneath are made so the spinal clearance is built into the saddle. Modern treeless saddles are getting better at this. On my wide-backed horses I doubt I will need a pad with inserts, but we'll see.
Another thing that seems like it will be good is that the girth billets are made so they can slide either to the front or middle of the saddle so you can adjust for where the horse's girth groove is.

Some things I'm not sure about yet are the stirrup leathers. It's nice there are two positions so you can put them in a more forward or more rearward position. What I'm not used to is that the stirrups connect underneath the flap but then exit either through a slit in the flap or else stay completely underneath it. I'm not sure how much this will affect me...it might even be a positive change. I've never thought about how the movement of the stirrup leathers up by my thigh and knee might be integral to my riding. Western fenders feel like they put too much strain on my knees, even when they've been "trained."

Another thing I'm not used to is having a thigh block. I sat on the saddle on a saddle rack to see how that felt to me. I've ridden in Aussie saddles and that was something I disliked: having a thigh block that restricted my leg movement. This thigh block seems to sit higher and it's not very large, so I'm hoping it won't bother me. Otherwise there are other styles of Ghost saddles that don't have a thigh block.
I hope I'll have time to ride both horses in the saddle tomorrow, at least briefly.
 

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My demo Ghost saddle arrived today.

This is the model, it's called a "Roma." The saddle itself is the smooth leather looking portion in the picture...the other part pictured is the saddle pad that is made by the same company.





Since I didn't have time to ride or bring it to the barn to try on the horses, I just looked it over a bit. I'm starting to get used to the non-traditional look of treeless saddles. At one point it really bothered me how strange some of the models look, but I've finally decided that's not as important as having my horse be comfortable.



My first impressions were good. It is very small, and even lighter than my Freeform treeless. Since I've read a lot of reviews from other people, I was prepared for some things. The leather is nice, but as others have said it's not the same quality as some of the high end english saddles such as my Arabian saddle company saddles. The saddle doesn't cost half the price of those saddles new, either, so that is understandable.



Some things that I really like are that the pommel is high and the panels underneath are made so the spinal clearance is built into the saddle. Modern treeless saddles are getting better at this. On my wide-backed horses I doubt I will need a pad with inserts, but we'll see.

Another thing that seems like it will be good is that the girth billets are made so they can slide either to the front or middle of the saddle so you can adjust for where the horse's girth groove is.



Some things I'm not sure about yet are the stirrup leathers. It's nice there are two positions so you can put them in a more forward or more rearward position. What I'm not used to is that the stirrups connect underneath the flap but then exit either through a slit in the flap or else stay completely underneath it. I'm not sure how much this will affect me...it might even be a positive change. I've never thought about how the movement of the stirrup leathers up by my thigh and knee might be integral to my riding. Western fenders feel like they put too much strain on my knees, even when they've been "trained."



Another thing I'm not used to is having a thigh block. I sat on the saddle on a saddle rack to see how that felt to me. I've ridden in Aussie saddles and that was something I disliked: having a thigh block that restricted my leg movement. This thigh block seems to sit higher and it's not very large, so I'm hoping it won't bother me. Otherwise there are other styles of Ghost saddles that don't have a thigh block.

I hope I'll have time to ride both horses in the saddle tomorrow, at least briefly.

Good luck! I know the saddle fitting thing is a night mare! I'm in the same boat trying to fit a new endurance saddle.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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I've had 2 English saddles, 2 Australian and 5 or 6 Western. Both English were Bates with CAIR panels, and I came to hate CAIR. Felt like I was riding on a beach ball. I like the Australian ones, but my horses move better in the western ones. My conclusion was that it has to do with the channels. My horses all have "A-frame" backs, not inverted "U" backs. The channels were both too narrow in my English saddles and put too much pressure close to the spine. The Australian saddles I own have wider channels, but still more pronounced than the way the western saddles fit, with no ridge lines and 1" of felt underneath.

As a rider, I pay for that extra width, because it forces my legs further apart. There is a huge difference in feel between the "twist" of my Aussie saddles and the western ones, particularly the roping quality western saddle. I'm getting in almost no riding now since I'm gone during daylight most days (and will for another couple of months, although the days are getting longer). So I've got my roping saddle on a sturdy stand, and in the evenings I sit on it and rock back and forth with my legs hanging. I find 5 minutes a day of that is doing wonders for stretching my hips.

The drawback to my short term employment is almost no riding time now, but the payback is good money coming in for a while. I'd like to get a good dressage saddle - well, good as in $1000-$1500, not "$2000+ good"! In spite of my comments on another thread that are taken to be anti-dressage (or anti-English), I think an English saddle with a wide channel and minimal or no knee blocks would make a great saddle for riding Bandit.

Of course, the dressage saddles I see online seems to mostly come with huge leg blocks and look like they belong an a 17 hand warmblood instead of a slender Arabian, so I may end up staying with my western ones. But SOMEONE has to make an English saddle that would fit an Arabian back well, and be OK for a rider who doesn't want the saddle to tell him where to put his legs!

The Roma looks...well...hmmm...intriguing. :think: I'll be interested in how it turns out.
 

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Knightrider, I could easily see how a person can end up with that many saddles.

MrsKD, hope your saddle hunt goes well.

BSMS, I've also tried the CAIR panels in a Wintec saddle and wasn't a fan either. But the couple of Wintecs I tried did not fit either the QH, TB, or Arabs we used them on. The changeable gullet only works if the rest of the saddle fits decently enough.
A couple of my friends who are quite a bit heavier than me ended up going back to endurance/western type saddles because of the weight distribution issues. They weigh between 180-250 range. Over long distances their horses kept having back issues in english saddles. One problem I believe is the seat size. It's a lot more difficult to keep the weight far enough forward as the seat gets bigger.

While I used to get saddles for how I was training or showing, in the past few years I've only bought saddles for purely practical reasons. What fits me, fits the horse, doesn't interfere with my riding. So the first dressage saddle I owned was for my dressage lessons, but the one I have now I bought for Amore's special saddle fitting needs. For Amore dressage saddle = straight flap = she can move her shoulder.

I kept hearing that Arabian Saddle Company (now called Lovatt and Ricketts) saddles were made to fit Arabs especially. They are very expensive new, and the older versions I saw used were obviously not made for distance riding with narrow channels that sometimes got narrower in the back. Luckily, I found a used Ellipse dressage saddle for $1,100 that was only several years old. That was about three years ago, and as picky as I am about saddles I have to say this is a very good saddle. It would be hard for me to part with it.

This saddle is the first I've used on Amore that didn't slide forward at least a bit when going down hills. She has a forward girth groove that is directly behind her elbow, and her shoulder is so flat it basically melds into her barrel. If you look at her from the front, she widens out right behind her girth groove dramatically so she almost looks like a light bulb shape. Her back is super short, and she has no withers. So basically she's a nightmare to fit. She's a good weight, that's just her anatomy. For the saddle to be behind her shoulder the billets have to come right out of the front of the saddle and that makes most western saddles and many english saddles rock or tip.

In these pictures you can see how small Amore really is...the girl on her in the left picture is about 5'4" 135 lbs and she looks big on her. That saddle was a Stubben Rex and it might be hard to see but it comes way up on her shoulder. The Lovatt and Ricketts dressage saddle on the right just clears her shoulder when she has her leg way back as in this pic. That's the best I've been able to do. But this saddle hugs around her round body (XW tree) and I've gotten used to riding with this straight leg since a more forward flap can't accomodate her shoulder. Also notice how short the saddle is, this is a size 17" and as you can see I'm sitting just behind her withers but there's not a lot of room leftover behind the saddle. Her back is super short and she overtracks a full hoofprint so her hind hoof steps over where her front one was at the walk.

My point is that these saddles fit Arabs better than other brands I've tried, and they also are high quality. The leather on these saddles have not changed at all in the three years I've had them, and in three years I've worn deep wear marks into the leather of cheaper saddles. Not to mention both of my L & R saddles are the most comfortable for the rider of any english treed saddles I've been in. The seats are soft. The Ellipse model does not have the big thigh blocks either, and if I shorten the stirrups to ride Halla my knee goes out over the edge of the flap.

Here's a friend of mine riding in the saddle, she's about 5'8" and rides with a shorter stirrup so her knee goes over the flap. The picture is dark, but Amore's shoulder is so flat that from this angle the saddle looks like it's on her neck almost. It's probably too dark to see, but I was in the middle on Halla in the other L & R saddle which is a Sylvan/all purpose model. That one works a lot better if you don't want such a straight leg.
My friend on Amore is a jumper so feels more comfortable with a shorter stirrup and also on thoroughbreds to be honest, but she likes
Amore.
 

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Bookmarked so I can refer back when I'm in the "English saddle buy mode", hopefully in April.

Cowboy has the disappearing shoulders. Bandit has big shoulders. I'll need to decide if I'm going to keep Bandit before I buy any saddles for his build - although he is similar to Trooper.
 

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Ghost Saddle Demo

Oops, sorry the photo disappeared from the last post. I always forget you can't move them around in Photobucket to another album or they lose the link. Here it is:


Yesterday I was able to do a short ride on each of my horses with the Ghost saddle. Today I was only able to ride Halla in it, also a short ride.
I really wanted to get down to the beach today. Being stubborn is a quality I have that sometimes is helpful and sometimes is not. Stubbornly I saddled up Halla as it began to rain, and was going to head for the beach regardless of the weather. As we headed west past the outdoor arena, Halla began bracing herself against the wind and the rain was pelting into our faces. The wind was probably around 30 mph and we were not even out in the open yet...reluctantly I decided it would be better to stay and ride in the outdoor arena (we don't have an indoor one at the barn).

When people talk about their horses being naughty or hyper or stubborn or spooky I always wonder about what good qualities those horses have. Halla is admittedly a very difficult horse. Many days she won't stand still to be saddled. Many days she won't be calm and often riding her requires constant attention and focus with no chance to relax and enjoy the ride. Yet Halla has some very admirable qualities that make her a great horse. For instance, today I could have ridden her to the beach and the wind could have battered against us and she would have still gone out for me. Amore will refuse if she thinks the weather is too bad. Sometimes Halla spooks, but she is very brave and will go on past horse-eating monsters even when she is afraid.

Today, each time we came around the far corner of the arena the wind blew strongly into our faces but Halla gamely pushed forward, trotting or cantering through it.

Here's the saddle on Halla:




Since I haven't purchased the saddle or pad yet, I put another thin pad to keep the Ghost pad clean. In the first picture Halla is wondering what I am doing since we usually saddle up and ride off right away instead of standing around taking pictures. The stirrup leathers are my own barefoot ones since the Biothane ones that came to try with the saddle were too long for me.

Someone said these saddles look "perched," but it doesn't feel like that on the horse. It feels very similar to a treed saddle, and because you sit a bit higher I think this fixes the wideness problem I was having in my other saddle. Since I've been riding for so many years, I'm not used to being too sore to walk right for a couple days after riding, which is what the Freeform did to me. This saddle has not made me sore yet, and I can use my legs without feeling they are too wide to be effective.

One of my biggest issues with a saddle is whether or not I can get up off of it. If a horse leaps over a ditch or starts bucking I need to get off the horse's back so I can stay balanced over my stirrups and not get thrown around. This was easy to do in the saddle. The thigh blocks don't hinder two pointing or getting off the horse's back. The only time I felt them against my leg was walking on Halla. At trot and canter they were a non-issue. I'm not sure, I might need the Firenze model for her which has more angled thigh blocks. On Amore the saddle felt just right, but I always ride her with a longer leg.

It is super comfortable but I think some people who ride treeless want the saddle to squish down and form around you. The ghost doesn't do that. It stays firm but is a lot more moldable than the Freeform. I think Halla likes it better because although her shoulder could slide under the Freeform without causing pain, this one doesn't interfere at all. In the arena she picked up the canter very easily, while in the Freeform she bucked until she got used to it.

My criteria now will be to see if the thigh blocks will bother me on a longer ride, and if the saddle doesn't ride forward on Amore down hills. My initial thoughts are that this saddle is great and I just need to figure out which horse it is for, and whether I'll get a second one in this model or a different one.

One thing I can say is that whoever made this saddle actually rode horses. Many saddles I've been in made me ask if the person who made it ever sat in the darn thing. Everything is made to be useful, including when I went to carry the saddle up the hill I realized the pommel is made so it is a carrying handle. The balance is superb. It's always a fight to maintain an independent seat on Halla since she is powerful, downhill and crooked (asymmetrical shoulders). If anything goes wrong my balance gets thrown off and I have to work hard not to use my arms. With this saddle I felt like I was finally able to sit back and use my seat and legs during transitions, with my arms staying completely independent, which is how I can ride most horses.
 
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